First Jewish Cultural Center in Portugal Inaugurated

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The celebratory dedication of a Torah scroll for the center; photo courtesy of Shavei Israel.

Transcoso, Portugal, July 23, 2013 – A new Jewish cultural and religious center was inaugurated today in the city of Transcoso – the first of its kind in Portugal since the country’s Jews were expelled more than 500 years ago. The center is a joint collaborative effort between the Jerusalem-based Shavei Israel organization and the Trancoso Municipality. Over 100 people participated in the center’s Chanukat HaBayit (inauguration ceremony), at which Mezuzahs were affixed to the doors. The highlight of the event was the celebratory dedication of a Torah scroll which was brought from Israel and will be used in the center’s synagogue. It was carried into the center amid energetic singing and dancing.

The center, named the Isaac Cardoso Center for Jewish Interpretation, will be administered by Shavei Israel, which will organize various Jewish activities on its premises, all of which will be overseen by the group’s emissary to Portugal, Rabbi Elisha Salas. The center will focus on outreach work to the many Bnei Anousim (descendants of Iberian Jews who were compelled to convert to Catholicism in the 14th and 15th centuries and whom historians refer to by the derogatory term Marranos) who reside in the area.

The Cardoso Center for Jewish Interpretation will also include an exhibition about the Jewish history of Portugal and the renewal of Jewish life in the region in recent years. It also contains a new synagogue called Beit Mayim Hayim – “the House of Living Waters.”